Poppy had smiled at Brad, giving him a little eye roll before she settled into her seat and watched the road ahead of them, the headlights creating a triangle on the road as the truck moved down the familiar streets that seemed desolate and unlike what she recalled. She wasn’t exactly sure what to say, but she knew she had the desire to say something. How her wit had taken a back seat while in jail those six months, she grinned to herself at the realization, knowing talking back to prison guards caused you to get into trouble and talking back to inmates meant a fight.
Out of practice or not, she honestly had no idea what to say to the man who had come to her rescue without so much as asking why, just simply where she was at. It was so like him, she had thought silently, and she was glad to see he hadn’t changed much. Licking her lips, her eyes darted this way and that, not once finding the driver out of fear of what her stomach might do, after all she was already having a hard time with it and seeing his face so close to her own and recalling the fondest of memories, it might make her upchuck all over his dashboard.
Swallowing the feeling, she just tried to relax and think of something else, something unimportant like how Elysium had slightly expanded, how there were more things here and there where there once was a nice field. Breathing in deeply, she raised her eyebrows as they slowed to a stop, the sound of the engine running being the only sound that filled her ears. What was she going to say? What could she say? What was something new she could discuss? It had been a year, or more, and she couldn’t think of anything new to talk about? Had they separated on such shit terms that she couldn’t even think of something to bullshit about?
Suddenly, without warning, Brad’s voice filled the truck and she frowned, looking over at him quickly. For a moment, she wasn’t sure what the hell he said, or what she heard, so all she could do was stare at him with a confused look on her face, with a hint of amusement. The man was quick to recover, talking about how her face looked like an albino’s. Swallowing, she realized she was doing that too much, her stomach was churning and her body was wanting to quake from the withdrawal that was coming fast and loose.
"I-I’m fine." She had absentmindedly stated, so low that she couldn’t even hear it herself, but with how she kept feeling her mouth water, she knew it was coming. The vomit was right there at the base of her throat and it was gonna come out, but when and where was the big question of the moment.
Brad had drove into a pharmacy parking lot, that much she could tell by the blinding neon lights that were making her head hurt, her stomach more nauseous than it already was. Threading her brow together, she grabbed her thighs with her hands, squeezing gently as she squirmed in her seat, especially the moment her old friend shifted in his own seat to glare at her, going on about the obvious things, stating how there was this thing between them, the silence, the radio, the communication out of nowhere…it was making her sick and she was gonna blow.
He had said something as he jumped out of the car and over to her door, pulling it open and unbuckling her seatbelt, grabbing her shoulders in a way that was firm, yet gentle and caring. Her eyes bounced in between his own as she finally opened her mouth, lifting her own hands to his firm upper arms.
"Dick," Poppy had said to him, nodding her head, "so many questions!" As she tried to laugh off the discomfort she felt inside her body, along with how he had brought up things she honestly didn’t want to think about right then, she couldn’t. Her eyes got big and she was quick to push him back as she felt the bile creep up her throat, burning along the way, as she jumped down next to his truck and gripped the side of the truck bed and bent forward, expelling all contents that were in her stomach all over his wheels.
The noise echoed throughout the night as she heard the disgusting splash of…whatever was in her stomach, onto the ground, splattering against her shoes and the pristine tires of Brad’s lovely automobile. After a few seconds of gasping for air, she finally stood up, pushing her hair out of her face, spitting the nasty taste out of mouth before placing her hands on her hips and glared over at Brad.
"You…you’re so ugly that when you got too close to my face…I was overcome with this urge to vomit." Poppy gave a light laugh, but she knew that this was only the beginning of her sickness.
"I really hate that name," he said lowly, rolling his eyes as he squeezed Poppy’s shoulder, as if by doing it she would tell him the truth. He turned his eyes into slits as he locked his eyes onto the greens he almost forgot, green eyes he thought told him something, but really nothing. Glancing at her hands that held onto his arms, he clenched his jaw. It was still there, that shock that always coursed through him everytime she touched him. Sometimes he wondered if she was hiding a second ability from him, an ability that would explain why he always felt something when it was her. Yup, she has that electric power shit, he thought to himself as he let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
Before he knew it, she threw him aside with surprising force and jumped out of his truck. Bending at her waist, Brad walked right beside her. He began to rub soothing circles on her back as she continued to throw up, worry, once again, coming up his face as he glanced around the decently packed parking lot. “There, there?” he said as a feeble attempt to suck away the suck that was happening to her at the moment. For a moment, his hand hovered above her hair, not knowing exactly if he should pull it away from her face so that the puke doesn’t get on it. But even before he had the chance to decide, Poppy quickly stood up and glared at him.
Moving back, he raised his hands in front of him, his head tilting to the side as he was met by those glaring green eyes. “I helped,” he said. “I rubbed your back and stuff so don’t look at me like I did that to you.” Chuckling at his own joke, he immediately cleared his throat when he noticed no reaction whatsoever from Poppy. Craning his neck to hear what she was saying, he took a step towards her while also making sure to bypass the puddle of puke right beside his car. “Okay, first of all, I doubt that,” he said, the tone of his voice light as he mimicked how she stood. “Secondly, that was disgusting but I’m giving you a pass because you look like shit right now. No offense.” Taking another step towards her, he pushed the hand that was on her hip away and set his own on her shoulder. Bending on his knees to level his eyes with her, he offered her a smile. “Lastly, do you want orange juice or apple? Or should I just stick with the norm and get ginger ale for the ill?”
Nodding his head at her answer, Brad guided Poppy inside the truck through the small of her back and helped her settle into her seat. His arm brushed on her own and his eyebrows furrowed. For someone who can play with fire, she’s a bit clammy. Glancing up to look at her, he smiled at her once again before going over to the driver seat to start the truck and put the A/C back on.
Before heading into the pharmacy, Brad warned Poppy not to mess with his truck, a homage of sorts to a running inside joke they both had a year ago.
He didn’t take long inside the store, like all of the dispatches he had at the station, he was in and out. He got the juice that she wanted, some gatorade, a few crackers and a beer for himself.
There was a chill in the air as soon as he walked out of the store, the skies now dark as the stars slowly brightened up above him, the moon was behind the clouds somehow, and the streets were slowly filling up. Must be close to rush hour, he thought to himself as he walked towards his car.
Settling into his seat, Brad placed the bag on his lap and opened it before handing her her juice and opening the bag of crackers he bought. “Not really sure what’s going on, but you look sick. You sound sick. And something sick just came out of your body too,” he said to her as he shifted the gears of the truck and peeled out of the driveway. “I should bring you to a hospital.”
Poppy had been sitting there, minding her own business, trying to go over everything that had happened to her the past few days, assessing just how bad she fucked up. Leave it to her, she realized, to be a constant fuck up. This wasn’t what she had planned for herself after being let out of jail, those six months of pure torment and hellish environments. Sure, she began eating healthier, got into exercise, therapeutic writing, therapy in general, and got clean, but that did not really prep her for what was going to happen the moment she walked out of the prison.
While she didn’t do “hard time”, it was hard for her, very hard considering she always had issues with authoritative figures and structure. Some way or another, she managed without getting into fights or fucking up her chances at getting back into society as a normal person. But even Poppy had to face it, she was never normal, nor would she be. It had been a few months since her release, she had been doing good. She was living with her grandpa, had a job, was going to AA meetings, checked in with her probation officer, and was drug free. Well, was.
Sighing out, she pinched the bridge of her nose as she thought of how she did line after line of cocaine, how good it felt to be in her system again, the rush of energy she got, the high. Oh, it had been unlike anything she could remember, but as she started coming down, she realized what had happened fully and the consequences she was going to face if she didn’t find a way out.
Furrowing her brow, she thought she heard a car approaching, but she didn’t look behind her, simply wallowed in her wrong-doings and groaned to herself as her stomach grumbled. Feeling her body shake, her mouth water, her head pound, she thought of trying to get out of this mess, tried to find a way to speak to Brad again without things being weird. Surely he’d have questions, right?
The horn honking caused her to jump and she was quick to look to her left as her hair flipped over her shoulder. The man’s face came to view as he spoke, his joke appreciated as it somehow resonated a familiar feeling within her, a good and safe feeling. Rising, she brushed off the back of her pants as she swallowed the pain back.
"What are you gonna do?" She questioned with a crooked grin. "Push me outta the truck?" Poppy climbed into the seat as the familiar smell wafted around her, enveloping her senses and causing another familiar feeling to stir as images flashed through her mind, images of times they had together and how she had tossed them all away for stupid reasons.
Clearing her throat, Poppy closed the door and was quick to put on the safety belt, pursing her lips as she tried to let the vomit crawling up her throat go back down. Perking up an eyebrow, she glanced over at her old friend and smiled.
"Long time, huh?"
Granted they didn’t leave in the best of terms, he couldn’t help but smile to himself as he heard her bite back, a faint nostalgia crawling over his body once again. He leaned back against his seat as he waited for her to get settled in, his thoughts quiet as his eyes stayed on her when she moved, taking in every detail, every shape and noticing the slight change on how she looked compared to a year ago. He pursed his lips into a line as he noticed how pale she looked, wondering if whether or not he should point it out or let Poppy tell him herself if there was something going on.”I could,” he said as he heard the click of the seatbelt locking. “I’m sure you’ll survive.”
Brad was quiet when she spoke, his eyes softening as he stared at the hand that was on the gear shift before putting it on drive. Furrowing his eyebrows, he let out a breath and turned down the volume of the radio, doing the best he can to avoid looking at her. As familiar as it was to have Poppy inside of his truck again, she also felt like a stranger to him. And it wasn’t because of how their last moments together before this panned out, it was more so because of the events that had led to where he was today,— the accident that involved Robert which led to his death, the days and months he spent making sure Mandy was okay only to send her across the ocean to London and him slowly getting back to his parents after knowing that he was adopted— the moments that happened after they stopped talking that made him feel as if he, not Poppy, was the stranger.
Glancing sideways towards the passenger side of the truck, he quickly offered her a smile but it didn’t reach his eyes, she wasn’t looking any better and this bothered him. Clearing his throat, he darted his eyes between the road and his rear-view mirror before taking a detour and getting out the nearest exit.
He knew it was awkward, especially since he hadn’t said anything else since she got into the car, and he knew that Poppy feels that it’s a bit awkward too. Rubbing the back of his neck, he put the car to a stop as the light went red. Glancing at the light, he turned his body around to face her, his eyebrows furrowed once again. “I know, I’m very attractive,” he said, only to regret it as soon as it came out of his mouth. A dry chuckle escaped his lips as he shook his head and brought his attention to her again. “Like I said, I know I’m very attractive,” he said, “But more often than not, that’s not really the reason why a girl loses her color and suddenly looks like an albino.”
Before Poppy said anything, the light went green and Brad had to go back driving. He drove to the nearest Pharmacy, parking immediately and shutting the car off before unclicking the seat belt and turning his body around to face her. Offering her a smile, he nodded his head at her. “It has,” he stated calmly. “It has been a long time. I know I could’ve answered that question earlier. It’s just… this,” he said as he gestured his hands between the both of them. “This. You texting me out of nowhere, me threatening to kick you out if you farted, you actually sitting there on the passenger seat while we listen to fucking what’s his face on the radio… you…. you.. looking like you’re about to throw up.”
He went silent as the expression on his face suddenly turned into worry as he noticed how pale she was actually getting. Stepping out of the car, he jogged his way to the passenger door and opened her door. Unlocking the seatbelt, he turned her around to face him by his shoulders and bent down so that his eyes were leveled to hers. Questions. There were so many questions Brad wanted to ask Poppy but at that moment, the only question he wanted an answer too was “Are you okay?” he asked. “Pops, are you okay?”
Poppy sighed out as she stuffed her cell phone into her leather coat pocket, plopping down on the curb and crossing her arms to shield herself from the onslaught of pain she’d be feeling for the next few hours as she came off the drugs. How she ended up in this position was still unbeknownst to her, but she couldn’t really blame anyone but herself, and that was the hardest thing to realize as she waited for an old friend to come save her.
Save her, she thought to herself as she scoffed, shaking her head as she looked over her shoulder to make sure nobody was nearing her to rob her or something. It had been a year, one year too long, since she had communicated with Bradley Thornton, the man whom she put through the ringer and back just because she had no control over her life. So much had happened in that year that she couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the fact she was calling him up to bail her out, like she probably had done before.
If he knew the whole truth right from the get-go, she was sure he wouldn’t dare offer her a ride, but luckily she had left him last on her list of people to ask forgiveness from due to her mandatory twelve-step program. Right now, she needed out of the neighborhood, needed to get the drugs out of her system, and pick up where she left off.
The sound of her stomach grumbling and cramping made her bow forward, placing her forehead on her knees as she hugged her body tighter. If she managed to keep herself from throwing up or shitting herself before he got there, she’d be thanking her lucky stars.
It felt like minutes became hours as Brad looked at his phone, the light slowly dimming away before going completely dark. He groaned as he tapped the cellphone on his head, confusion and questions riddling his mind as he made his way towards his locker to pack up his equipment before heading out to pick her up.
"Dude," his co-worker to the right said. "You look like you just saw a ghost."
"I feel like I did," Brad answered. If only his co-worker knew how close to home he was, maybe he wouldn’t look at him the way he did at that moment. Picking up his duffel, he glanced at his phone once again, making sure that his brain wasn’t playing with him like it did a couple months back when everything slowly got out of control. "I’ll see you tomorrow, man."
The drive to Poppy’s house wasn’t that long, the red lights and the occasional pedestrians that walked by the only ones causing him delay. The speakers inside his truck blasted a random station from Pandora, the songs surprisingly up to his liking since he had no clue what the fuck he clicked when he got inside the truck. For a moment, he was glad that he couldn’t hear anything else other than the song, glad that he couldn’t hear the thoughts rummaging inside his head asking why in the world was he doing what he was doing.
At times, Brad would ask himself why he would do the things he did, wondered why it was so easy to think of others first before himself despite the things they did to him. He felt crazy at that moment, weird even, especially considering he’s helping the woman he walked away from just because she knew what she wanted and that, what she wanted, wasn’t him.
"Okay," he said, as he parked on the shoulder of the freeway. "Okay, now you have to shut up because you sound like a fucking pussy."
A couple of songs later and Brad soon found himself on Poppy’s neighborhood, the torn down houses still looking as torn down as they used to, mutants were still pushing shopping carts filled with random stuff. It briefly gave him a sense of nostalgia. The last time he was here was a year ago and nothing changed. I wonder if she changed, he thought to himself as he turned the corner to her street.
His fingers tapped against the steering wheel as he slowed down to where she said she would be. True enough, she was there. Her back was facing him as he put on the breaks and stopped, his fingers tapping more anxiously than it did just a couple of seconds ago. He didn’t know why he stopped, didn’t know why he suddenly put the gears on reverse and slowly let his foot off the break. Groaning, he stopped the car once again and leaned his head against the steering wheel and let out a sigh.
"For crying out loud," he mumbled as he put the gears back on drive and slowly inched his way to where Poppy was. He honked once to get her attention and put a smile on his face, waving once before reaching over the passenger door to open it. "My warning still stands. You fucking fart in my car, I’m kicking you out."
[Text] If I hear just a tinsy tiny faint of a fart, I will kick you out and make you walk. Gimme 20 mins.
[Text]: Okay, I know where that is. I’m just about to get out of work. Is it okay if you wait a bit? Try not to shit on yourself. That’s disgusting.
[Text]: Okay. And you need my help? Where are you?
[Text] Can you text properly? How many fingers am I holding up?
[Text]: Pops… Everything okay?
[Text]: Who’s this?